How CenUSA Uses Social Media to Spread Science - and How You Can Too!

Kristin Peterson
Newsletter Issue: 
February 2015

Graph showing increase in Facebook and Twitter followers from 2014 to 2015

To learn more about CenUSA's social media in the last year, view our interactive infographic-

For many, social media is ingrained in everyday life. With the ubiquity of computers and smartphones, social platforms have become an important way to stay in touch. According to Pew Research today 71% of online adults use Facebook and 23% use Twitter.

But, Facebook and Twitter are not only a way to catch up with old friends; they can be a platform for scientific education and discussion.

Over the course of the last year, CenUSA Bioenergy has worked at becoming a bigger part of social media. We have grown our interaction and, we hope, increased awareness of research results on Midwestern sustainable biofuels and bioproducts.

“In the last year our Twitter following has increased by 53.6%,” said Anne Kinzel, Chief Operating Officer for CenUSA Bioenergy. ” We have added a Facebook page which is seeing a steady growth in page “likes” and integrated a bi-monthly e-newsletter, BLADES to generate and share our own content. We now have 774 readers and our click through rate surpasses the standard for the education industry.”

For many, especially those not accustomed to a less formal communication style, social media can be daunting. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s a few tips for using social media to reach a science audience.

  1. Keep it short and sweet: Although one surely cannot explain pyrolysis in 140 characters or less, long posts can be overwhelming and overlooked by the speedy eye of a viewer. Keep posts simple and link to longer articles or more information for those who are interested. Try to limit your characters on Facebook and twitter and keep videos to around three minutes or less.
  2. Utilize visual media: a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is surely worth a million. Visual media is a great way to help catch the eye and spread a message. Use photos, infographics (like the one pictured above) and short videos to increase page views. Facebook algorithms put a higher weight on visual content (which, for those who are new to social media, means that images are more likely to appear on newsfeeds than text.)
  3. Interaction is key: The best way for someone to get to know you is through conversation- this goes for social media as well! Reach out to people or organizations with similar interests. This is likely to drive more people to your page and benefit the groups you reached out to as well.
  4. Share knowledge: You may not have the interest or resources to constantly generate your own content, but that is okay. Sharing articles, re-posting content or linking to related videos is another great way to share interesting information and interact.
  5. Be socially active: You cannot expect people to go looking for a page on their own. Look for people who you think would be interested and reach out! Try looking at similar organizations and whom they connect with. Comment, post, follow or tweet to these groups in order to lead them to your site. Share your social media on your other websites and documents.
  6. Mix it up: use a combination of text, videos, re-posts and your own content. Pay attention to what works with your audience. By using analytics, it is easy to find which posts connect with an audience and which fall flat.
  7. Use hashtags: By utilizing hashtags (#) in tweets, content becomes easier to find and more accessible. Pay attention to which hashtags work well and re-use them when applicable. For example, try using a hashtag that others use like “throwback Thursday” (#tbt) where you bring back old content or create one of your own and re-use hashtags that get more interaction. This may be a trial and error process; at CenUSA we have settled on our own hashtag: #GrassAcademy.
  8. Post early, post often: It is never good to overwhelm with so much content that your site looks like it is spamming others, but remember, if a site is inactive or doesn’t post often people will not visit it. Try to post around once a day on Facebook and even more on Twitter! Use Facebook more sparingly than Twitter. There may be times when more or less posts will be appropriate depending on what events are going on at your organization. 

CenUSA Bioenergy’s goal is to share knowledge and educate others about the potential of perennial grasses in the new bioeconomy. Through social media and BLADES we’ve expanded our reach and are sharing our research results to more people than ever before.